Reposted from Public Sector Executive
The vicar who challenged a magistrates’ court and council over the £125 cost of a council tax summons has won his case in the High Court.
PSE reported on the start of the case, which arose in August 2013, when Reverend Paul Nicholson was ordered to pay £125 costs to Haringey Council for obtaining a liability order.
Tottenham magistrates had previously given the council permission to increase the cost of a summons from £95 to £125, which led to the reverend asking the magistrates how the new figure had been calculated.
When the magistrates refused to state a case for the new figure Rev Nicholson was granted leave for a judicial review. His challenge focused on the absence of information that he said was necessary for the Magistrates to make a decision on the increase.
Mrs Justice Andrews ruled that Rev Nicolson was entitled to have the information he requested in order that he could form a view as to whether the proposed order was within the powers of the magistrates.
She also concluded that the magistrates in Tottenham had not had “relevant information” before them when making a costs order against Mr Nicolson.
She added: “In fact, they had no material which would have justified them in reaching the conclusion that the costs that were claimed were incurred in connection with the issue of the summons or obtaining the liability order.
“All they had was the say-so of a council representative, who was unable to give any better explanation when he was challenged than (at most) the vague statements recorded in the Magistrates’ reasons for refusal to state a case.”
Mrs Justice Andrews ordered Haringey to play the claimant’s pro bono costs, and the fees, costs and expenses that he incurred earlier in the case, when he was acting in person.
Rev Nicolson said: “I made the challenge because I know £125 costs is a very big penalty on top of the inevitable council tax arrears, rent arrears and sanctions for the thousands of benefit claimants in work and unemployment who have been charged the council tax by Haringey Council since April 2013.”
A Haringey Council spokesperson said the authority accepted the court’s decision.